Issue 1: Nature strip maintenance
Nature strips are the area, usually grassed, between the road and the footpath or private property boundary. Traditionally, nature strips have been mowed by residents through unofficial agreement. Council only maintains nature strips adjoining private property if they are identified as a hazard or if they are blocking the view of oncoming traffic, as the cost to Council to maintain nature strips on 94,200 residential properties would be cost prohibitive. In 2021/22, Council received 4083 complaints about overgrown grass on nature strips, increased from 931 complaints in 2015/16.
There are currently no Local Laws requiring residents to maintain grass on nature strips, although there are Local Laws and a Nature Strip Beautification Policy which outline what materials and plants can be added to nature strips. Penalties exist in the current community Amenity Local Law 2015 for damaging, interfering with, or placing items on a nature strip without permission. A clause will be included in the Local Law making it an offence to alter the nature strip outside of the permitted alterations in Council’s Nature Strip Beautification Policy.
Proposed Local Law Provision (if determined to be necessary)
Consider a provision requiring residents to maintain nature strips adjacent to their property so that grass does not exceed 20 centimetres, with a penalty to be imposed if a nature strip is not maintained as required.
For most residents, compliance should be straightforward and is unlikely to impose a significant burden. We acknowledge that there are community members who are unable to maintain their nature strips (because of physical impairments or lack of access to lawncare equipment/services), and if nature strip maintenance is included in the finalised Local Law, Council will facilitate access to services for those who are genuinely unable to comply.
The nature of non-compliance does not immediately present a risk to the safety of others and the penalty should only be sufficient to encourage compliance or as a deterrent to non-compliance. On that basis, the penalty amount will be in line with the current unsightly property offences in the Local Law, which is currently 2 penalty units ($200).
Supporting the community in complying with this policy will require staff time to facilitate access to services to maintain the nature strip. This can be accommodated within existing Council resources. Any additional enforcement action, particularly if there are high levels of non-compliance or a proactive approach is required to enforcement (i.e. not waiting for reports of non-compliance to act) there will be additional resources required. This could require up to two Local Laws Officers at an estimated cost of $172,000 per year. This cost could be partially offset by infringement revenue of approximately $40,000 (assuming that 5% of complaints result in infringements issued).